Environmental assessment of proposed areas for offshore wind farms off southern Brazil based on ecological niche modeling and a species richness index for albatrosses and petrels

The increasing number of offshore wind farms (OWFs) proposed off the Brazilian coast is a biodiversity management challenge that needs to be addressed with strategic and targeted environmental impact assessments. The effects of OWFs on birds are much better studied in the northern than southern hemisphere. Knowledge of species distributions is key to developing effective conservation strategies. Ecological niche modeling can support strategic siting decisions and identify the target species for which mitigation of the impacts of OWFs may be required. We used the maximum entropy algorithm (MaxEnt) for modeling species niche suitability, incorporating environmental variables and presence-only data from tracking and at-sea surveys for seven albatrosses and petrels, of which five are threatened by extinction. We used the predicted niche suitability index (NSI) to calculate niche overlaps, assess distribution patterns and generate spatial prioritizations across seasons based on a species richness index (RI). Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross Thalassarche chlororhynchos, Atlantic Petrel Pterodroma incerta, and Great Shearwater Ardenna gravis were selected as target species for monitoring in Brazilian shallow waters (0–200 m depth) in the warm season, and Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross and White-chinned Petrel Procellaria aequinoctialis in the cold season. The RI was higher in waters between 200 m and 1000 m depth, a preferred area for OWFs with floating foundations. We advocate for the incorporation of niche models in environmental impact studies, as a tool for improving conservation, environmental planning, and impact assessment.


Publication status:
Authors: Lemos, Carolina Alves, Hernández, Mauricio, Vilardo, Cristiano, Phillips, Richard A., Bugoni, Leandro, Sousa-Pinto, Isabel

On this site: Richard Phillips
1 January, 2023
Global Ecology and Conservation / 41
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